Thoughts on @forrester’s Mobile Mindshift Index

Photo Credit: » Zitona « via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: » Zitona « via Compfight cc

Forrester Research recently released the Mobile Mindshift Index, a study that looks at the attitude of mobile phone users rather than just activity. It also allows brands to assess where they stand with regard to how mobile their audiences are in terms of thought processes and behaviour (the expectation that I as a female belonging to a specific age-group have, that information should be available to me in a mobile-ready format whenever I want, for example – whether that is through responsive design or mobile-specific content). This in turn will affect how quickly they need to evolve their communications plan to include mobile and how involved their efforts should be.

Whenever I think of so-called ‘brand mobile strategies’, the first thing that comes to my mind is a quote I read last year by David Armano from Edelman about the difference between mobile and mobility. It’s from this Harvard Business Review piece:

Mobility trumps mobile. The difference between mobility and mobile is like the difference between hardware and software. Mobile is linked to devices — it is always one thing, wherever it is. But mobility changes with context: cultures incorporate mobile technologies differently.

Forrester’s Mobile Mindshift Index helps to take this discussion forward. It is high time that we as an industry stopped discussing mobile strategy as linked to the device and started thinking and talking about how people’s attitudes and behaviours change with the context in which they use the device. It will help cut down on app myopia, for one. It will force utility on to the agenda rather than being ego-centric. As we provide more utility as brands, people will seek us out rather than treat us as a one-night stand. Benadryl’s Social Pollen Count app might be yet another app to some people but as a hayfever sufferer it provides enough utility for me to actively seek it out and open it when I don’t feel all that well so that I can assess if other people feel that way too, and which locations I should be avoiding. And the more I do that, the more benignly I feel towards the brand and the more I am likely to think of them during my next visit to Boots – in fact, I might even make a visit specifically to seek them out the way I sought out their app.

Another valid point the Forrester Report discusses is the importance of paying attention to the data generated by mobile content. Creating content is only the first part of the answer (if that is indeed the answer, that is – remember that it may very well not be what is right for your brand). Most brands today invest in content production without taking the time to do their due diligence and invest in the analytics and the data output simultaneously.

For too long mobile has been the ‘next big thing’. I think we are all agreed that it is here to stay and it is part of the mainstream as a communications tool and channel already; the ‘Year of Mobile’ is not 2013 because that time has passed. Given this, what we need to do is consciously shift gears, think of it in keeping with the context and behaviour it comes with for our specific audiences rather than everyone as a whole, and not treat it as an add-on or vanity metric.

For a long time after the introduction of mobile phones, my uncle would stand with his mobile in one place, similar to how he used to use a landline, and have long conversations with family or friends as if he had to be rooted there in order to be able to talk. His son saw this one day and said, ‘You do know why it’s called a ‘mobile’, right? You can actually walk around with it, you don’t have to be stuck in one place!’

Time to apply that thinking to brands – mobiles are more than anything about a behaviour, not just a device.

Cross-posted on the PHD blog

Planned obsolescence

But the idea is that companies design products with a short life, like the pretty computers I see these days, with the shiny logos, the biblical half-eaten fruit and so on, pretty objects that are built to self-destruct, so you buy another in a few years, and another and another, and in that way you feed the insect empire, the insects in their insect suits, thinking insect thoughts with their sexed-up insect brains.

– Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis

This excerpt came to mind recently when I read about O2’s Charger out of the Box initiative. O2 are going to offer a micro-USB to USB cable instead of the usual phone-specific charger, to take advantage of the general trend towards standardised connectors. But even the Wired article above caveats that with ‘with the exception of Apple’s proprietary jack.’

That’s one of the things that frustrates me about Apple. Even the iPhone 5’s cable is now different from the rest of the iFamily, and so Apple users are forced to collect chargers rather than get rid of this mess of wires that people want to leave behind them. The EU is forcing Apple to sell an adapter to mitigate this problem, because even they realise how ‘how dumb it is for every smartphone not to use the same cable to charge and sync.’

In the end, I think planning for obsolescence is regressive rather than progressive thinking, and companies who insist on thinking that way aren’t going to win the long game.

Brands like Hiut Denim that plan for longevity have a much more compelling and relevant story for our age. It’s tougher to translate that to electronics I agree, but it’s not impossible.

Have a mobile phone, be a film director

An international festival showcasing films on fashion has opened up submissions to films shot using mobile phones, for the very first time.

Last year, Hooman Khalili’s ‘Olive’ got a theatrical release in the US, and was the first feature film to be entirely shot using a Nokia N8.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen Gulp and Dot, two lovely stop-motion animated short films shot entirely using the N8 as well, done by W+K for Nokia with partners Aardman. Gulp was billed as having the world’s largest stop motion animation set, and Dot as having the world’s smallest stop motion animation character. They’re both quite fun to watch, if you haven’t seen them yet.

Famed Korean film director Park Chan-wook, whose credits include the critically acclaimed Oldboy, made a longer 30-minute movie, the thriller Paranmanjang, using the iPhone last year as well, which mooted a competition during the London Korean Film Festival recently around the theme of one-minute films made with mobile phones.

The ongoing London Short Film Festival doesn’t have a mobile phone category, but I wonder how much of an influence the advertising industry’s work has had on the decision to introduce an entire category in A Shaded View on Fashion, the Spanish film festival, and how long it will take for more mainstream festivals to recognise the immense impact of everyone’s favourite handheld device.

Carphone Warehouse, you are cheaters

I’m writing this blog post to document one of the worst experiences I have ever had (and continue to have) with a brand, the brand in question being Carphone Warehouse.

The story so far

On Wednesday 9th March, a salesperson from Carphone Warehouse called me to offer me a free phone upgrade based on the fact that I was eligible for one. I said yes, and the guy, without letting me finish informing them that I had moved home and they had the wrong address for me (“no that’s OK, the old address is fine” – how, I do not understand), said he’d get it sent by courier ASAP. I managed to squeeze in that I’d moved home but clearly he wasn’t really bothered: he had to make that sale. I warned him that I was leaving the country for a week and would need it by the next day, which he said would not be a problem at all.

The next day I called to verify my details as I was a bit concerned if they had the right address, and to ask if they could get it delivered to a store nearby from where I could pick it up. Unsurprisingly, they had the wrong address, and no, it was too late to get it that day because letting DHL know about the redirection would take time. In the meantime, O2 switched off my Blackberry data services thinking I now had an iPhone. So I went to one of the biggest tech conferences in the world, SXSW Interactive 2011 in Austin, with a dumbphone – a BlackBerry instrument which was as good as the earliest ever Nokia phone, good enough to make and receive calls and SMSes and nothing else. Carphone Warehouse did promise, however, that they’d send the instrument to the store I specified for me to pick up when I got back.

When I returned to London on Thursday March 17th, I called their customer service centre to confirm that it had been delivered to the store. I got a verbal confirmation from their agent, and then turned up at the store only to be told that it was not there. I called their support centre again from the store, who at this point started changing his story: first he said it was delivered on the 10th March to the store but it probably was returned as they usually return unclaimed products after 5 days. I pointed out that this could not be the case because the store employees showed me their incoming delivery log and there had been no delivery in my name in the last 2 weeks. Then he put me on hold, came back and told me that it was delivered to my old address (which I had told them before I left for my trip I no longer lived in) and that somebody signed for it according to DHL – with a name that was not mine. No response to my point that I had asked for it to be delivered to the store. Another bit of being put on hold and they told me that it was delivered to my current, not my previous, address on 10th March, but still signed for by someone that was not me. I was asked to call DHL to verify, despite the fact that Carphone Warehouse were the dispatchers – why on earth should the onus fall on the customer to find out what happened to something that was sent by Carphone Warehouse?

After not being able to reason with the guy, I had to call DHL, who said they had delivered it to my old address, confirmed it was signed for by someone – the same name I did not recognise at all, and that I’d have to get Carphone Warehouse to log an enquiry as that was ‘the procedure’.

The guy I got on the phone at Carphone Warehouse this time, Usman, was much more intelligent – he said that it was indeed Carphone Warehouse’s responsibility to log the enquiry and that I had been given the wrong information the first time around. He put me on hold while he logged the issue with DHL, then suggested I call the police to report the loss too (if you can call something I never received in the first place as a ‘loss’), which I duly did.

Two hours later the first customer service agent called back saying the phone was available in the store for me to collect.

My hopes didn’t even have enough time to go up before he called back saying it was a mistake – and I had to take him through what his colleague had done for me a short while ago. He apologised and asked me to wait for a couple of days, as Usman had told me to do, when I was supposed to receive an email with further details.

That evening, I called Carphone Warehouse to check the status of my complaint. This time they said it was delivered to my current address, and since someone (who I had not heard of, and neither had anyone in my building) had signed for it, it was a case of theft and I had to claim homeowners insurance – it was now a ‘legal issue beyond their control’. Of course it was beyond their comprehension (chap called Andy, may I add) to understand that it had not entered the door of my home in the first place. I spoke to a manager – Michael – and got my complaint escalated to the next level. Note that I had spent well over an hour calling their premium phone number by then. I asked for an email confirming that they were looking into it. I was promised they’d send it, but of course no email came.

I then called O2 to see what they could do and whether they could turn my BlackBerry services back on, but they said no, as far as they were concerned I had an iPhone and they could not do anything till Carphone Warehouse reported it as stolen. Basically I was now paying for a phone which I did not have.

On Saturday 19th March, I called DHL again to see what they were saying: they did not budge from saying it had been delivered to my old address and signed for by ‘a decorator’. So I went round to the old address and enquired with the current residents whether there had been a delivery in my name the previous week, and whether they had any decorators working in their flat. This is where the story starts getting *really* interesting and potentially damning as far as Carphone Warehouse and DHL are concerned: they said they had in fact had a delivery on Thursday 10th March, did not have any decorators working, and as the delivery was not in their name, they sent it back to the sender. Which, as we are all aware, is Carphone Warehouse.

I called Carphone Warehouse again that evening, and emailed them with this new information. I was simply told to wait 4 days for a response (I spoke to Kate this time, a manager). This morning I got an email which said exactly what I knew, and that it was still ‘being looked into’.

Let’s get the basic facts again:

1. Carphone Warehouse did not bother verifying which address I wanted it sent to right from the beginning. They did not care a hoot after the sale, so to speak, where it went.

2. When I asked for it to be sent to the store, that request was completely disregarded despite me receiving verbal confirmation that they would send it there – twice.

3. Repeated back-and-forth calls resulted in different stories EVERY SINGLE TIME I spoke to Carphone Warehouse.

Someone has clearly taken the phone for their own and it is not me, and I have a pretty strong case when I say I’m not going to be paying for someone else’s phone due to the inefficiency of Carphone Warehouse and/or DHL.

Let’s now get to the math:

  • Value of the contract we’d agreed: £45 x 24 = £1,080, which I have no problem paying if the phone reaches me.
  • Value of the next 3 (at least) contracts I would have signed up for which I most definitely will not if things are not resolved = £45 x 24 x 3 = -£3,240
  • Value of positive word-of-mouth recommendations (which I have given in the past for the exact same company): about £10,000, say 3 customers for 3 years
  • Value of negative blog post(s), Facebook, Twitter: about -£30,000

(HT Ian Delaney, who thankfully had a happy ending to his story, for the above)

I don’t know, Carphone Warehouse, if you’ve heard of brands like Zappos and Best Buy who live by their customer service online. Why, just this morning, I read of this positive experience someone had with Volvo.

I have been an advocate of your brand for the last 3 years – and I can prove it. I sincerely hope for a positive resolution to this issue, so that I can go back to being one – all I ask is that you reach the phone to me satisfactorily, and I hope that will happen in less than a week as I am tired of being shabbily treated. I trust this is not a scam, and that you are a responsible, fair, empathetic business that listens to their customers online – because you won’t survive long otherwise.

UPDATE 26th March 2011: I contacted the CEO Team at Carphone Warehouse after 4 days of the start of this problem, on the advice of a friend who used to work there. After that, the response was much more courteous and quick. Rob from the CEO team finally traced the call and admitted that the problem originated with the first sales call where the salesperson did not log my details properly though I was trying to tell him to, and they replaced the phone for me. Thanks very much, Rob, I do appreciate your help.

One day, I hope every customer sales advisor will be as courteous as you.

Channel 4 commissions SMS drama for young adults

4iP, Channel 4’s digital innovation fund, is something I will definitely miss, now that Channel 4 has decided to shut the division and merge it with existing departments.

But I’m glad to know that Channel 4 Education is still flying the innovation flag high. IV4Evr is a project commissioned by them, created by BAFTA-nominated artists’ group Blast Theory and written by Tony White. It is targeted at young adults (though ostensibly it is of interest to people from the media, education, technology and broadcast sectors) and is an SMS drama around the life of Ivy, a young adult who faces – well, the usual issues young adults do, and asks for advice from fellow youngsters via SMS, to which she replies. There’s a chance to influence the story obviously, a 6-episode series which is due to be telecast in 2011.

The IV4Evr trial started on the 10th October and ends on the 16th, so if you know anyone in the UK who’d enjoy this kind of thing, tell them to get on it now. You can interact with Ivy on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Mobiles in the Era of Ubiquitous Computing

Nice post on The Ideas Project blog that talks about the future of mobiles in an era of ubiquitous computing. Worth a read. I’m always irritated by the fact that apps on an iPhone can’t be used on other phones, but I know it’s naive to think they could. This article discusses the possibility, and it’s quite exciting. The article also links to interviews with Joi Ito, CEO of Creative Commons and Iqbal Quadir, founder of Grameen Phone, amongst others.

Enter the abstraction layer. It’s a simple concept: Create a way for applications to interoperate across devices. It’s a grand vision, and there are already encouraging signs that it’s possible with certain applications in the mobile world. For example, Forum Nokia offers a recent white paper entitled Nokia Software Strategy, which outlines the concept of abstraction layering, which brings platform independence and minimizes the developers’ need to have specific platform development skills,” enabling them to create applications without necessarily having to write specific code for a particular device.

Mobile in India – Jumping Ahead to the Future

This is a re-post from BBH Labs, where I co-wrote this post with Chandrashekhar L from BBH India and Ben Malbon from BBH Labs.

Image credit: Dipanker Dutta (cc) via Flickr

Brands in India are still struggling with advertising on the internet, even as mobile services steadily explore new territory.

Both mobile and the internet comprise what is popularly known as ‘digital’, yet unlike in Western markets such as the UK or the US, the former is much more powerful and prevalent than the latter. The reason for this is primarily the drop in the cost of mobile usage over recent years, versus the increasing cost of broadband usage. As this blogger says:

“What the Indian telcos should do is adopt a model that was instrumental in driving mobile usage in India. Drop the price points so that even the average person (living on Rs. 100 per day), would find Internet usage compelling, useful, and not frustrating. If they were to adopt a mass usage policy and not price their broadband products based on margins, I believe that in 5 years, India could have at least 100 million broadband users (via DSL, cable modem, Mobile 3G, wiMax, etc.).”

The mobile industry in India is witnessing rapid changes, with voice and messaging charges dropping drastically. Tata Docomo started the concept of “pay per second” not too long ago, which was replicated within a fortnight by all other major players like Vodafone, Reliance and Airtel. Less than a week ago, Reliance (the largest CDMA player) introduced the option of choosing between 1 paise per sms (a measly 0.02 cents) or 1 rupee for unlimited SMS per day (2 cents per day).

The interesting paradox is that while basic call and text charges have dropped to unbelievably low prices, GPRS costs have yet to come down. Therefore, the trend suggests that the evolved value-added services (VAS) will definitely grow at a much lower pace, as those costs aren’t coming down as steeply: accessing services on the phone still costs a lot in India, even though phone tariffs are amongst the lowest in the world.

As more and more people in the country jump on the mobile phone bandwagon, from small villages to large metros, innovation is growing apace. Consider, for example, the new business deal between DirecPay, a bank-neutral payment aggregator service from Times of Money (part of the Times Group, India’s largest media conglomerate) and PayMate, a wireless transactions company. The deal will provide an extended mobile payment facility to merchants who sign up, and with the current rate of penetration of the mobile device in the country at 35% (the number of GSM users alone is at 335.5 million currently), it is likely to bring even more consumers into the considered set of e-commerce users, as Avijit Nanda, the President of Times of Money says.

Image credit: Ken Banks (cc) & via Flickr

Mobile phones in India are also extremely powerful social and commercial tools. Nokia handsets are the instruments of choice of the majority of the population in the country (the company owns about 65% of the market share).
Where educational iPhone apps are less than 1000 in number (737 in November 2008) and certainly not as popular as gaming and entertainment apps in the Western world, in South Asia, Nokia has understood the market and is investing in Mera Nokia, a tool that provides farmers with useful crop-related information, Nokia Life, which offers agriculture, education and entertainment service apps specifically targeted at the market in smaller urban and rural areas, Nokia Tej, a mobile order management system, and Nokia Point and Find, a context-aware service that recognizes objects through barcodes and GPS. (Nokia has embarked on the last two as part of the Progress Project, in partnership with Lonely Planet). Airtel (another popular Indian mobile operator) and Thomson Reuters also offer services similar to Mera Nokia.

If the market offers a completely different set of challenges, the only way to counter them is to understand how to leverage the instrument that is clearly succeeding. We imagine something along the lines of the Blyk model would work well here: where advertisers subsidize the cost of mobile usage via targeted advertisements. It may even be possible to build a two-tiered offering like Spotify has for it’s Premium and regular (free) offerings. What Hugo Barra, a Product Manager at Google says is particularly resonant in this respect:

“People will not want to pay for services that they can get for free, and the services will be free because there is a massive opportunity for advertisers to come onto the mobile platform. This is still untapped. Thanks to the proliferation of location information, specific advertising, and I mean non-intrusive advertising can easily come onto the mobile.”

Another opportunity that can be tapped into is the growth of social networks in the country. India is now only behind the US in Twitter usage, and it is 5th in the world in Facebook usage. An interesting model would be to explore a hybrid that combines the extensive usage of mobiles and social networking.

The big players are already realizing the opportunities for promoting social networking services. For instance, Aircel Telecom launched the biggest advertising burst in the telecom category (before Tata Docomo) by showcasing Facebook on mobile while Airtel has launched a campaign of 4 TVCs promoting the use of Twitter. Here is some of the creative from those two campaigns:

According to a 2009 Trendspotting report, online ad spend is only 3% of the total ad spend in India, compared to 8-20% in developed markets. But advertisers are evolving in their use of the online medium by going beyond banner and keyword advertising to creating campaigns that leverage social networks and connectivity, while the use of the mobile phone for advertising is still very rudimentary (mostly used for text-based promotional offers). The increasing use of the internet and especially social networks on the mobile would automatically mean that the online advertising approach gets extended to the small mobile screen as well: 63 million Indians already access internet on mobile as compared to 45 million on the PC (Source: IRS and TRAI estimates).

What’s fascinating – and perhaps instructive – for those involved with making sense of all this in Western markets such as Europe and North America, is how telcos and marketers in India seem to simply be jumping over some of the phases and issues the typical North American marketer might face. Despite the fact that in many ways the technologies at their disposal are less sophisticated than in Western markets, they seem further ahead in terms of mobile utility, mobile commerce & micro-payments, and in many cases more adventurous as far as advertiser-funded mobile platforms are concerned.

We have much to learn.